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Old 04-11-2017, 10:09 PM   #1
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Default Guide: How to choose your PC components

So I've seen a lot of "build guides" where the OP just creates a bunch of builds and doesn't explain why he does what he does (mine included), so I'm going to try to explain the basics of HOW to specifically choose your components. Let's begin:

CPU

When choosing a CPU the most common mistake is to pay attention to cores and speed. Some others also look at the amount of L3 cache, and call it a day. The truth is there are other things to look out for, such as architecture and manufacturing technology. I'll explain them all the best I can:

- Architecture: There is no good way to measure how different architectures impact performance. As a general rule, newer architecture = more performance. Keep in mind, Intel and AMD have different architectures. The latest architectures at the moment are Kaby Lake (Intel), and Ryzen (AMD). Therefore it is recommended to build using this ones, since it will help future-proofing your build. In case your CPU is a bit behind, you can trade it with it's superior models, without changing motherboards. The best CPUs from each architecture generally stay relatively powerful as times go by. So, let's say I bought a Pentium G4560, and few years from now, it's not good enough. So instead of changing my entire rig, and buying the newest Pentium with the latest architecture, I just buy an I7 7700 and will still be decent, and probably better than the newest Pentiums. Exactly the way it happens today. Within the same architecture it is ok to compare the other specs. If I have 2 Kaby lake CPUs and one has 2 cores and the other has 4, then chances are the 4-core Kaby is better than the 2-core Kaby.

- Manufacturing technology: It usually only affects the TDP of your CPU, which basically determines how much heat your CPU will produce. Examples are 32nm, 14nm, etc.

- L3 Cache: Has an impact depending on how CPU bound the game or software is.

- Cores: Pretty self explainatory. The number of physical cores the CPU has. Doesn't really matter unless you are comparing CPUs within the same architecture.

- Threads: Usually each core is able to handle 1 threat. However, with Intel's Hyperthreading and AMD's SMT, some CPUs can handle 2 threads per physical core. That in some cases, translates into better multithreading. Some other times in better performance, because of the way CPUs handle their cycles more efficiently.

- Speed: The same as cores. Can't be interpreted as the real-world performance the CPU has. There are many 3GHz CPUs better than 4+GHz CPUs. It really doesn't tell you much unless you are comparing within the same architecture.

Motherboard

The motherboard itself won't affect performance directly. Getting a better motherboard will not translate into, let's say, better FPS in a game. It can, however, limit the components you use, and the amount of overclocking you can achieve.

- Socket: This is the most important thing when choosing motherboards. You MUST make sure it has the socket to which your CPU belongs. If your CPU is a Kaby, you'll need a 1151 socket motherboard. This doesn't affect funcionality directly, but it has to match your CPU. Otherwise the CPU won't fit, and you'll have a problem.

- Chipset: Usually chipsets limit what a motherboard can do, or how a motherboard is designed. Some chipsets allow overclocking, others do not. Some allow Crossfire, others do not, and others handle it differently (such as the X370 and B350 motherboards from AMD).

- VRM: The voltage regulator module is a very important part of the Motherboard if you are interested in overclocking. I've seen very few guides actually addressing this. They usually take the form of numbers, like "12+2", or "4+1". Some CPUs require a high phase count for a decent OC (like the FX lineup from AMD, because of their high TDP, and some others do not). The VRM affects the way current is delivered to the CPU, splitting the load between the phases. The more phases, the cooler they run, the more overclock you get without experiencing instability (Blue screens and/or stuttering).

- Crossfire/SLI support: What it says. Whether if it supports SLI or Crossfire, and sometimes the way it does it. The best example are the AM4 boards (the X370 boards use 8 lanes for each card on Crossfire, whereas the B350 use 16 and 4).

- Supported RAM: The amount and speed varies from one motherboard to another. Generally they are so high you won't have to worry about it (usually 64/128Gb and 3000MHz+).

RAM

This is where your PC keeps the files you are using at the moment. If your PC runs out of RAM, it will use free HD space to store them, and your HDD (even SSD) is exponentially slower than the RAM, and will result in heavy performance losses.

- Interface: Can be DDR4, DDR3, DDR2, DDR, etc. DDR2 and DDR already are very outdated. DDR3 is still decent. All new boards use DDR4.

- Speed: Measured in MHz. For example 2400MHz. This, however, is not the real speed. The real speed is half of the labeled speed. In the 2400MHz situation, the real speed will be 1200MHz. RAM is usually advertised as DDRxxx/PCayyyy. Example DDR3-2400/PC3-12800. That means it has a frequency of 2400MHz and the max data transfer is 12800 MB/s, and it's DDR4.

- Size: Depends of what you are using the PC for. If you are gaming, 16Gb for now is perfect. For other uses, depending on how intensive, you may require more.

- Dual Channel: Technology that allows for the speed to be doubled when using different RAM channels in the motherboard. Requires at least 2 RAM sticks.

- Mixing different RAM sticks: ALWAYS make sure your RAM uses the same interface supported by the motherboard (you can't mix DDR2 with DDR3), also sticks MUST have the same timings and recommended voltages, or you'll have to spend some time manually tweaking them. If you get something with different speeds, your motherboard will automatically downclock the faster stick to match the slower one.

Storage

Basically when choosing storage, the standars is to get: 1 SSD and 1 HDD. All you need to know is SSDs are faster (faster read and write speeds), but a lot more expensive (a 250Gb SSD costs from $80 to $150 or more) and HDDs are slower, but their price/Gb ratio is much better (1Tb HDDs can be as low as $50). Couple of thngs you have to know about both:

- Interface: Both SSDs and HDDs use SATA (SSDs also use M.2). You have to make sure your HDD is SATA 6Gb/s and not something else. Older drives have SATA 3Gb/s, SATA 1.5Gb/s, etc. This does not mean they have 1.5Gb/s write and read speeds, but rather 1.5Gbit/s, which translates into 150Mb/s (1Gbit =~ 119Mb).

- Rotation speed: Measured in RPM, it basically tells you how fast is your HDD. The standard is 7200RPM. This does not apply to SSDs since they do not have any moving parts.

- Cache: Not too important. If you can, get something with 64Mb, otherwise 32Mb will be all right. Theoretically will help you load programs faster.

GPU

This one is rather simple. It all comes down to how much money you put into it. Some have a better price/performance ratio, but essentially that's how it works. The same as CPUs, you can't use specs alone to compare cards with different architectures. Some of the specs are Core speed, Memory clock, CUDA cores, amount of VRAM, etc. The only one that could be a limiting factor is VRAM. The higher your resolutionm, the more VRAM you need. For now 4-6Gb should be allright for up to 4K resolutions when gaming. The best way to compare cards is by using Benchmarks (userbenchmark.com being my favourite). Just to be clear I'll explain what VRAM does.

- VRAM: It's the memory of your GPU, where the card stores the textures rendered. If you run out, it will start using your system's regular RAM, which is exponentially slower and you'll loose a great deal of FPS. Having enough VRAM is incredibly important (if you run out of RAM too, you'll start using disk space, and that's way slower).

PSU

The PSU is a very important component, often neglected. The biggest problem with PSUs is the lack of information provided by the designers, and the deceitfullness of the 80plus certifications, which ARE NOT A MEASURE OF QUALITY. There is only two ways to know if a PSU is good: You open it up, and check it yourself, or, you can leave it to the pros. JonnyGURU.com is an amazing site with plenty of reviews, and he is a firm oppositor of the so called "PSU tier lists". So am I. The problem with this lists is the lack of context. Now to understand his reviews there are some things you gotta keep in mind.

- Date: If a PSU got a good final score, but when you look at the date it's 7-10 years old, chances are the unit is not as good anymore.

- Read everything: Don't just stick to the "recommended" units. Define a budget, find what decent PSUs are there (generally by looking at the most popular brands, like Corsair, EVGA, etc.), and then investigate each model.

That would be the end. For the case just pick something you like and that fits everything you need (DO NOT get a case w/PSU, they are usually terrible). Next I'll leave a link to some gaming and productivity builds.

Build guide
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Old 04-12-2017, 12:17 AM   #2
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Default Re: Guide: How to choose your PC components

A lot of this is just your own opinion based on your understanding which seems to be strictly consumer level. A lot of the information pesented here is nonsense and I recommend you do your own research rather than take this as fact.
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Old 04-12-2017, 12:56 AM   #3
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Default Re: Guide: How to choose your PC components

With users who don't really care about the price, then the latest would be the best. But for a low budget, selecting a previous model will be the best choice. For example, at this moment, choosing Haswell will help to save some money to spend on other components rather than selecting Kaby Lake.
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Old 04-12-2017, 04:44 AM   #4
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Default Re: Guide: How to choose your PC components

Quote:
Originally Posted by Technician View Post
A lot of this is just your own opinion based on your understanding which seems to be strictly consumer level. A lot of the information pesented here is nonsense and I recommend you do your own research rather than take this as fact.
Yes, the consumers are the main reason for this thread. I'll leave the computer engineering training to you

Please, if you see any nonsense help me correct it. This is about helping beginners, not about determining who knows more.
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Originally Posted by kevindark View Post
With users who don't really care about the price, then the latest would be the best. But for a low budget, selecting a previous model will be the best choice. For example, at this moment, choosing Haswell will help to save some money to spend on other components rather than selecting Kaby Lake.
I would have to disagree. Haswell CPUs have the same price and are older.
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Old 04-12-2017, 11:35 PM   #5
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Default Re: Guide: How to choose your PC components

Not too bad of a guide.
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Old 04-13-2017, 12:18 AM   #6
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Default Re: Guide: How to choose your PC components

It's silly to say that architecture is as important as number of cores, core speed and cache. Unless you are trying to reverse engineer it, the way it's built is the least important thing to base a purchase on.

The fact that the information is coming from just another consumer rather than a person with at least some inside knowledge and the fact that these builds are all done with a tool available to all consumers makes it feel like a case of the blind leading the blind.
But still, thanks for writing up your opinions of how to chose parts based on what you think.
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Old 04-13-2017, 12:47 AM   #7
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Smile Re: Guide: How to choose your PC components

Quote:
Originally Posted by Technician View Post
It's silly to say that architecture is as important as number of cores, core speed and cache. Unless you are trying to reverse engineer it, the way it's built is the least important thing to base a purchase on.
But I never said that architecture was as important as cores and speed. I only said that it is possible to compare CPUs by their specs only if they have the same architecture. Otherwise everyone would choose an FX 8350, pay $150 for it, and leave thinking they got a good deal, when getting something with half the cores and 20% less speed would have been better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Technician View Post
The fact that the information is coming from just another consumer rather than a person with at least some inside knowledge and the fact that these builds are all done with a tool available to all consumers makes it feel like a case of the blind leading the blind.
First of all, there are different types of consumers. How else would you call the people that arrive to this forum with an AMD A4 and ask what they should upgrade? I would like to think I'm a bit above that.

Second of all, I've read many Computer Science books, Electronic books and Programming books in my free time. None of that, except perhaps at the higher levels, "trains" you to build a computer. I do not know what you meant by inside knowledge, but I assume it's something like that.

Lastly, I used the tool because of convenience, and the fact that it's available to all consumers is not bad in my opinion, to the contrary, it's great.

Now that you mention it though, I believe using the same RAM and motherboards for all the builds was silly. If you guys know about good motherboard/RAM that fit the budgets and you want to see them changed, please post them in the build or PM me, I'll see if there is a mod available to change things up. Thanks for the feedback.
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Old 04-13-2017, 01:26 AM   #8
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Default Re: Guide: How to choose your PC components

Why not wait for someone to ask a question about a specific choice of components in an upcoming build and then offer an opinion and give the facts that support that opinion.
I doubt this will be useful next year when someone wants to know if brand x is better than brand y or if the model a is really better for their build and needs than model b.
A pre-emptive build advice colum seems like a waste of time considering how quickly the tech changes and new tech is introduced.

Of course it's your time to waste as you like and time you enjoy wasting isn't wasted.

Your comment about motherboards shows a very limited understanding of how pcbs work.
Having thicker copper on it can drastically reduce heat build up and make components like resistors etc. last a lot longer and run a lot cooler, so there is a lot more to consider there than some would guess.

You briefly mention dual channel memory but fail to explain what it does or how it does it and you completely overlooked triple and quad channel memory architecture.
You failed to mention that the memory controllers on older boards is in the north bridge and why it's been moved to be integrated into the cpu, and you never even touched on the fact that it's the memory speed that is the limiting factor of a computer's performance as the cpu is many times faster than the memory and a lot of the cpu time is spent 'waiting' for the memory to perform it's read and write functions.
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Old 04-13-2017, 03:54 PM   #9
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Default Re: Guide: How to choose your PC components

Quote:
Originally Posted by Technician View Post
A pre-emptive build advice colum seems like a waste of time considering how quickly the tech changes and new tech is introduced.
I know, so is making build guides.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Technician View Post
Your comment about motherboards shows a very limited understanding of how pcbs work.
What comment?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Technician View Post
You briefly mention dual channel memory but fail to explain what it does or how it does it and you completely overlooked triple and quad channel memory architecture.
I explained what it does. How it does it is irrelevant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Technician View Post
You failed to mention that the memory controllers on older boards is in the north bridge and why it's been moved to be integrated into the cpu
Why would I mention it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Technician View Post
and you never even touched on the fact that it's the memory speed that is the limiting factor of a computer's performance as the cpu is many times faster than the memory and a lot of the cpu time is spent 'waiting' for the memory to perform it's read and write functions.
Do you mean I/Owait?
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Old 04-15-2017, 04:21 AM   #10
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Default Re: Guide: How to choose your PC components

Quote:
Originally Posted by Technician View Post
colum seems like a waste of time considering how quickly the tech changes and new .
Did you mean column?


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